What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Pattaya? Is it the excellent food, the warm beaches, or the view? Or is it an image of an endless row of bars and clubs, a no-holds-barred red light district that draws those who crave the carnal pleasures of a woman or a ladyboy?
A cursory stroll in nighttime Pattaya may indeed provide credence to the reputation it has gained. The Lonely Planet called the city a “heavy-breathing and testosterone-fueled testament to holiday hedonism,” and going around Beach Road and Walking Street, I could see very well how Pattaya became known as the Sin City of Thailand.
Prior to coming to Pattaya, I had spent some time in the border town of Sangkhlaburi, a quintessential small town full of friendly people, empty streets, and great views of nature. It’s a place where you can envision raising your family the old-fashioned way.
Pattaya, on the other hand, has a completely different ambience. Tourists—especially of the male and retirees kind—are all over the city, with nubile Thai women in skimpy and tight skirts in tow.
A British colleague thinks that foreign men who choose to live or retire in Pattaya are only after one thing, and although I’m not entirely convinced.
Pattaya may have a hidden charm that has nothing to do with carnality—I have met someone who has made his home in Pattaya, and I’m inclined to agree.
What’s interesting about the women and ladyboys who loiter in Beach Road at night is the number of mature ones who are still confident enough to display their wares beside other women half their age.
We’ve also seen quite a few of them in company of farangs, walking the streets of Pattaya in their 5-inch heels and tight skirts that barely cover their bums.
Is Pattaya only about sex for sale? Fortunately, no. According to an article in USAToday, Pattaya did become known as Thailand’s biggest sex tourist destination because of its history as a recreation stop for US soldiers in the Vietnam War.
Its proximity to Bangkok (just a few hours away) plus its beaches has made it very attractive to foreigners who can only stay a short time in Thailand.
However, the same article reports that the city has been trying to change its image, and while it’s not there yet, it is indeed possible to see Pattaya as a place that non-sex tourists would want to visit.
Sure, visibility is not good for diving, but there are nearby islands for snorkeling, the view of the crescent-shaped bay is great, there’s an elephant farm for the kids and even a man-made floating market that’s good to walk around in.
If you want to bring your family to Pattaya, it is best to avoid Walking Street and Beach Road, especially at night. There are luxury resorts and family-oriented hotels that can fully cater to your and your children’s needs.
If nothing else, at least you can avoid the children’s awkward questions about the interesting people that they can see along these roads in nighttime Pattaya!
How to go to Pattaya: Pattaya is around 2-3 hours from Bangkok. There are hourly buses (fare: ~THB 120) going there from both the Mon Chit and Ekkamai terminal. It’s also possible to take a private taxi, and the cost can vary from THB900-2000, depending on your haggling power.